Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Morgan Park Police Department
Served: Length of Service Unknown
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Chief's Office
District of Incident (Present Day): 022 - Morgan Park
Cause of Death: Aggravated Battery - Throat Slit
Age at Time of Death: 59
Date of Birth: 1844
Date of Appointment:
Date of Incident: 022 - Morgan Park
End of Watch: 31 Oct 1903
Date of Interment: 03 Nov 1903
Cemetery: Mount Greenwood Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot 74, Section 23
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Not Enshrined
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Not Listed
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 4, Line 43
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 15-E: 22
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Chief of Police George Abner Airey, Star # Unknown, aged 59 years, was a veteran of the Morgan Park Police Department, assigned to the Chief’s Office.
On October 31, 1903, Chief Airey was killed when his throat was slit while responding to a citizen complaint. The complaint involved a small group of people creating a disturbance on Halloween night. When Chief Airey arrived he observed what he believed to be a man attempting to overturn a section of wooden sidewalk by pulling it up. The man was Mrs. Hattie Payne, a women dressed in men’s clothing for Halloween. Chief Airey approached and struck Mrs. Payne with his cane. This action set off a racial storm, which had never been seen in the village. Hattie’s husband, Webb Payne, her bother, Mack Wiley, age 20 and two friends became enraged. A struggle ensued and Chief Airey was attacked and his throat slit by Mack Wiley. Chief Airey bled to death at the scene.
Six suspects were arrested in connection with Chief Airey’s murder. Mack Wiley was arrested in Harvey, Illinois, and taken to Morgan Park police station and was held by the Coroner. Webb Payne, alias James W., and Hattie Payne were also arrested and held as accessories. The Coroner conducted an inquest, in which a crowd of Morgan Park residents attended, which was held at the Englewood police station in Chicago. For four hours witnesses and the prisoners told their version of the murder. An effort was made to show that the crime was premeditated. Residents of Morgan Park had charged this, but close questioning failed to produce sufficient testimony to hold all the prisoners on charges of conspiring to kill. Alonzo McPhee, who had been sworn in as a special policeman for Halloween night, testified that his superior officer struggled with the men when Mrs. Hattie Payne was attempting to take his star. It was at this time, it was stated, that Wiley approached the police official from beside and stabbed him three times about the face and neck. Later the star was found in the grass at Morgan Avenue and Vincennes Road, where the struggle occurred. Aireys mutilated hat with the gold braid missing was also found nearby. Wiley did not deny his guilt, and when asked if he wished to testify offered his written confession. He then wrote his confession and it was tendered to Captain Shippy of the Chicago Police Department.
Mrs. Payne told how she had dressed in men’s clothing earlier in the evening and, accompanied by three of her friends, had gone out to celebrate. She was removing boards from a sidewalk when she was accosted by Chief Airey and according to other witnesses was struck on the back by the police official when she ignored his orders. Two hours after the murder was committed. In the second meeting with the chief of police Mrs. Payne accused him of striking her and a quarrel followed, ending in the fatal stabbing of Chief Airey. At the close of the inquest the comments of those most bitter against the prisoners increased in severity until predictions were freely made that the black people in the suburb would be driven away.
Mack Wiley was indicted by the Grand Jury and stood trial. On March 25, 1904, Wiley was sentenced to death on the gallows by Judge Smith. Mrs. Hattie Payne was found guilty of manslaughter.
Chief Airey’s funeral mass was held in his residence located at 1218 Church Street. He was laid to rest on November 3, 1903 in Mount Greenwood Cemetery, 2900 West 111th Street, Chicago, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot 74, Section 23.
Chief of Police George Abner Airey was born in 1844.
Chief Airey was survived by his wife, Sarah Frances (nee Dixon); children: Alice Evelyn, Charles Allen, Frank Fawcett, George Abner and Howard William and siblings: Charles, David H., Elizabeth Catherine Airey Shipp, John William, Margaret Columbia Airey Templeton, Robert H. Sinthia F. and Virginia Airey Wise.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #40.
The Morgan Park Police Department was absorbed into the Chicago Police Department after the Village of Morgan Park was annexed in 1914.